February Book Haul

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I cannot overstate my excitement about the books I bought this month. Usually I tend to be more restrained with my bookish purchases, or else I find most of my books at used bookstores and Friends of the Library book sales, but this month I went crazy with some Barnes & Noble gift cards I’d gotten for the holidays. It’s going to be hard for me not to read all of these immediately. Here’s what I picked up:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – this is cheating, because one of my family members received this as a gift for the holidays and decided he didn’t want it (who turns down a book?!). Being the opportunistic book poacher that I am, I immediately snagged this historical fiction Pulitzer Prize winner so that I could find out what all the hype is about. I feel like I’m always saying that I don’t read historical fiction very often, but I actually do, and I’m looking forward to this.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – one of my bookish goals for the year was to read more classics, and another was to read more long books, since they tend to become my favorites. I also find it embarrassing that I have yet to read any classic Russian literature. I’m so intrigued by this story and plan to tackle it this spring.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley – amnesia! Secret agents! Supernatural goings-on in London! I have my fingers crossed that this will be one of those books that sucks you in completely. And I apparently have good timing, since the sequel comes out in June.

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood – Margaret Atwood is one of my absolute favorite authors and I’ve never read any of her short fiction. I hope it’s just as prescient and disturbing as her longer works.

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt – this book sounds strange and creative, which is really all I want from a book. The author is compared to Kelly Link on the back blurb (see below!).

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link – I am a huge fan of Kelly Link’s short stories. I was lucky enough to be able to meet her at a reading in Boston where she read part of one of the stories from this book about an actor who played a demon lover in a hit movie–and was tortured when she stopped in the middle of the story! Since then I’ve looked forward to reading this latest collection. Hopefully it will be as surprising, intricate, and wonderfully weird as her other collections.

Grave Visions by Kalayna Price – I started this series a few years ago when I first discovered urban fantasy. I had just gotten fully caught up with Kate Daniels after binge-reading the first five books in about a week (apparently I didn’t study at all that week? Not sure how I did that) and was having a serious book hangover. I started a few other UF series and nothing was working for me (I always do this after I find a new genre or subgenre that I like–try to find something similar to assuage my craving–and it rarely works) when I discovered Alex Craft, a witch with necromancy powers involved in a love triangle between a hot fae guy and a hot grim reaper guy (I’m 100% Team Death, for any other Alex Craft fans reading this!) However, due to some personal struggles the author has been going through, there hasn’t been a new book in several years. Until now! It’s here!

 

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Reading the Weird in March

Earlier this week, I was in the middle of five different books and realized I wasn’t completely happy with any of them. I was enjoying them, but nothing was consuming my interest and inspiring me to reach for it obsessively. And then I figured out why: for the first time in probably years, not one of the books I was reading had any kind of fantastical or science fiction-related element.

I like to mix up my reading and read a mixture of genres, but science fiction and fantasy (along with their offshoots, magical realism, speculative fiction, etc) have always been my favorites. I love the feeling of reading something that is completely unlike anything else I’ve ever read, encountering new ideas and creative ways to tell a story. And by accidentally finding myself in a place without any of those books, I had strayed away from that. And I hated it!

That’s why the Month-Long #Weirdathon, held by Outlandish Lit (http://outlandishlit.blogspot.com/2016/02/month-long-weirdathon-sign-up.html) is coming at the perfect time for me. I’ve already realized that in order to get back into the reading zone, I need to immediately jump into some scifi/fantasy reads, and making those books as weird as possible sounds like the perfect antidote to too much realistic fiction.

Are  you reading anything weird in March? My TBR post will be up soon!

January Reading Wrap-Up

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I know we’re a week into February, but here’s my (belated) reading wrap-up for January! It was a really great month for me, reading-wise; doing the Bout of Books challenge really helped me jumpstart the year. I actually spent a substantial amount of reading time in January on a book that I wasn’t able to complete before the month ended (The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss), so I’m surprised that my total was so high. My main disappointment was that only 2 out of the 7 books I read this month were books from my physical TBR shelf, which goes against one of my reading goals for 2016. However, I am a huge library supporter, so I can’t really feel bad about some extra library time this month, and there’s always next month to tackle my unread bookshelf (which is more like two shelves and several piles of books in my closet, if I’m being honest).

Why did I fail so hard at the Read My Own Damn Books Challenge? My main issue is that I get into these weird reading moods where I need to be reading something out of the box, or fast-paced, but I don’t have a specific book in mind that I know I’ll really like, so I head to the library to find several possible choices to fit that mood. Then I get caught up in one or two and neglect my overstocked TBR shelf that’s full of things I know I’ll really like and become immersed in once the right mood strikes. But mood is key, and I’m a moody reader. This usually tends to happen after a book hangover from a particularly amazing read; this month I blame The Passion for that.

January Stats:

Books read: 7

-Library books: 4

-Ebooks: 1

-Books I own: 2

Book Riot Read Harder tasks completed: 3

Reading Challenges: 1 – Bout of Books

January Book Reviews:

The Passion by Jeannette Winterson – 5 stars

This book set the bar extremely high for my reading in 2016. Winterson’s prose is lyrical and gorgeous, without tempering the harshness of the subjects she tackles. The story is told in alternating perspectives by Henri, a young French boy who leaves his farming town in the countryside to serve under Napoleon as an assistant/chef both in France and during his horrific Russian campaign, and Villette, a bisexual Venetian girl who navigates both the mysteries of Venice’s canals and her complex romantic life. It’s a story about obsession and what drives people, but it’s not a sweet, predictable love story; this short book is breathtaking and philosophical. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The Just City by Jo Walton – 4 stars

When I was younger, I was obsessed with Greek mythology. Now, one of my obsessions are books that combine science fiction and fantasy; this book was able to encompass both of those with interesting results. My full review is in my previous Bout of Books post, but to summarize: read this if you want to read about Socrates engaging in dialogues with futuristic robots while displaced children attempt to become philosophers in a mysterious island isolated from history.

Enclave and Outpost by Ann Aguirre, 3 stars for both

I read books 1 and 2 of Aguirre’s Razorland trilogy this month and was surprised I hadn’t heard more about these books when they were released; I think they may have gotten lost in the shuffle of the many dystopian YA books that were released post-Hunger Games. These were what I turned to after my book hangover from The Passion when I needed something different to keep me from staying frozen in Winterson’s gorgeous prose. And it worked. These books are very distracting; there’s interesting worldbuilding and a cool premise. Deuce (yes, that’s really her name. No, I don’t know why the author couldn’t have picked a better one) is training to be a Huntress in the tunnels beneath future New York City in an enclave ruled by strict traditions enforced for survival. Outside the safety of her community, the Freaks roam wild, and aboveground, she’s been told, is nothing but devastation. The Freaks, who are zomebiesque, begin to change behavior patterns and become more threatening, and eventually Deuce (still her name, unfortunately) eventually is forced to face the surface and discover what has become of the world outside her enclave. Oh, and there’s a love triangle. And in book 2, Deuce has to try to fit into an aboveground community where people have started living like they’re in the 1700s to try to stave off the Freak threat. In summary, books 1 and 2 were fast-paced, entertaining reads, but I wasn’t invested enough to check out book 3.

Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples – 4 stars

So, I REALLY disliked Volume 4 of Saga, so much so that I almost wasn’t going to pick up Volume 5. But this one completely redeemed it for me! The story is back to its former awesomeness–it seemed like there was more action and more heart in this one than there’s been in awhile. And the artwork is so incredible. If you’re a book fan who is interested in trying a graphic novel, I highly recommend this series.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell – 3 stars

I really like Rainbow Rowell, but this was just not my favorite. It was cute and comforting, but didn’t really go beyond that for me.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – 4 stars

Concise, poignant, and important. Adichie states what should be obvious but unfortunately is not. I’m a huge fan of this author and look forward to reading Half of a Yellow Sun this year.

So, that’s it! What did you all enjoy reading in January?

January Book Haul

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This month, I picked up 4 books I’m really excited about–one from B&N, and the other three from a really cool local used bookstore I found the other day. Seriously, it was amazing–I can’t resist any bookstores that have separate science fiction and fantasy sections. That always bodes well for a book-hunting trip. So here’s what I found:

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders — this is one of the books I’m most excited to read this year. The first B&N I went to hadn’t put it on the shelves yet, but I was able to find it at another location. I’m intrigued by the premise of two friends taking different paths to study science and magic, then reuniting to (possibly?) save the world.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood — Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite writers, and I’ve been wanting to reread this book ever since I checked it out from my high school library. It’s disturbing and engrossing, like all of her books, and has a profound feminist impact.

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank — dystopian/post-apocalyptic reads are one of my favorite genres, and this comes highly recommended from a friend. It focuses on small-town life after a nuclear holocaust and was written in the 1950’s.

When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro — I’m currently reading Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, and I love his writing style that focuses heavily on the unreliable nature of memory. This book’s plot revolves around a detective attempting to solve the mystery of the disappearance of his parents that occurred when he was a child.

2016 Reading Challenges

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Reading challenges are a relatively new thing for me, but they’re something I’ve gotten more and more interested in the past few years. Last year I participated in quite a few, and even finished one or two of them (Goodreads Challenge and Read Harder 2015). I also started a lot of others without finishing, but still had fun trying. Let’s see what I can accomplish this year!

Goodreads challenge: read 50 books. This is lower than last year, when I shot for 60, because I’m planning on tackling a bunch of very long books this year and don’t want to feel pressured.

Colorful Covers Challenge 2016: I love this challenge, mainly because it ends up looking really pretty. Basically, you challenge yourself to read between one and three books (I tend to shoot for three) with covers in every color of the rainbow and also black, white, gray, brown, and multicolored.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Challenge: from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club on Goodreads, my challenge this year is to read 12 science fiction and/or fantasy books that this group selects to place on its shelf. I’m in the middle of my first book for this challenge, The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss.

2016 Goodreads Choice Awards Reading Challenge: this one’s from a group I’m in on Goodreads–I’m trying to read 20 of this past year’s Goodreads Choice Awards winners and nominees between this year and last year. I’m already at 14!

Book Riot Read Harder 2016 Challenge: I participated in the Read Harder 2015 challenge this past year through Book Riot, a fantastic book blog that I’m addicted to, and found it a really fun way to branch out in my reading. This year’s challenge looks a little more challenging, but I’m still definitely planning on completing it.

1. Read a horror book
2. Read a nonfiction book about science
3. Read a collection of essays
4. Read a book out loud to someone else
5. Read a middle-grade novel
6. Read a biography (not memoir or autobiography)
✓ 7. Read a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel
Enclave (Razorland, #1) by Ann Aguirre Enclave by Ann Aguirre
8. Read a book originally published in the decade you were born (1980’s)
9. Listen to an audiobook that has won an Audie Award
10. Read a book over 500 pages long
11. Read a book under 100 pages
12. Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender
13. Read a book set in the Middle East
14. Read a book by an author from Southeast Asia
✓ 15. Read an historical fiction book set before 1900
The Passion by Jeanette Winterson The Passion by Jeanette Winterson
16. Read the first book in a series by a person of color
17. Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the past three years
18. Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie. Debate which is better.
✓ 19. Read a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
20. Read a book about religion (fiction or nonfiction)
21. Read a book about politics, in your country or another (fiction or nonfiction)
22. Read a food memoir
23. Read a play
24. Read a book with a main character that has a mental illness

2016 Popsugar Reading Challenge: There is no way that I will accomplish this challenge. There just isn’t. But hey, I’m going to give it a shot anyways.

⌷ A book based on a fairy tale
⌷ A national book award winner
⌷ A YA best seller
⌷ A book you haven’t read since high school
⌷ A book set in your home state
⌷ A book translated to English
⌷ A romance set in the future
⌷ A book set in Europe
⌷ A book that’s under 150 pages
⌷ A New York Times best seller
⌷ A book that’s becoming a movie this year
⌷ A book recommended by someone you just met
⌷ A self improvement book
⌷ A book you can finish in one day
⌷ A book written by a celebrity
⌷ A political memoir
⌷ A book at least 100 years older than you
⌷ A book that’s more than 600 pages
⌷ A book from Oprah’s Book Club
⌷ A science fiction nover
⌷ A book recommended by a family member
⌷ A graphic novel
⌷ A book that is published in 2016
⌷ A book with a protagonist that has your occupation
⌷ A book that takes place during Summer
⌷ A book and its prequel
⌷ A murder mystery
⌷ A book written by a comedian
⌷ A dystopian novel
⌷ A book with a blue cover
⌷ A book of poetry
⌷ The first book you see in a bookstore
⌷ A classic from the 20th century
⌷ A book from the library
⌷ An autobiography
⌷ A book about a road trip
⌷ A book about a culture you’re unfamiliar with
⌷ A satirical book
⌷ A book that takes place on an island
⌷ A book that’s guaranteed to bring you joy

#BustleReads Challenge 2016: I probably will not finish this challenge, although I’m noticing that this overlaps a lot with last year’s Book Riot challenge…and a bunch of other challenges…according to the list, they actually did this on purpose, but maybe that’ll make it easier to finish. Although it’s not a high priority for me compared to the other challenges.

1. Read a book written by a woman under 25.
2. Read a book on non-Western history.
3. Read a book of essays.
4. Read a book about an indigenous culture.
5. Read a book before you see the movie
6. Read a YA book by an author of color
7. Read a book set in the Middle East
8. Read a book about women in war
9. Read a graphic novel written by a woman
10. Read a book about an immigrant or refugee to the US
11. Read a children’s book out loud
12. Reread your favorite book from childhood
13. Read a memoir from someone who identifies as LGBTQIA
14. Read a work of post-apocalyptic fiction written by a woman
15. Read a feminist sci-fi novel
16. Read the first book in a series you’ve never read
17. Read a book set in Africa by an author from Africa
18. Read a book in translation
19. Read a contemporary collection of poetry
20. Read a book by a modernist woman writer

What reading challenges are you participating in this year?

24 in 48 Reading Challenge

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At the last minute, I decided to participate in the 24 in 48 Reading Challenge this weekend, which turned out to be perfect since it snowed all day Sunday. The 24 in 48 Challenge is to read for 24 hours within a 48-hour period…and I totally did not achieve that, but I had a great time trying!

I actually don’t know how many hours I read total, since I wasn’t attempting to keep track–I kept the challenge more personal and just used the reading time as cozy, stress-free time to escape into great books. I also loved seeing what all the other challenge participants were reading, although I didn’t participate in any mini-challenges like I did for Bout of Books.

Books I finished: The Just City by Jo Walton

This was actually the first book I started in 2016, but I took a break in the middle of reading it because the storyline hit a lull. The premise is that the Greek goddess Athena has decided to carry out an experiment–to found a city based on the teachings of Plato, with citizens picked from different points in time who have each prayed to her. The citizens become the city’s founders, then teachers when children are brought in to craft into “philosopher kings” who are able to “become their best selves” by living according to Plato’s theories. It’s such an interesting premise that it’s hard to pull off as a book; for me, the story meandered a bit before really picking up partway through when Socrates is brought to the “Just City” and starts to question all of its premises. In the end, I found it really fascinating and thought-provoking, and will absolutely be looking for the sequel.

I read a little bit of: This is a Book by Demetri Martin

Honestly, this book is not great so far. I picked it up for a funny read since I like Demetri Martin’s stand-up, but it’s not really working for me. I’ll probably finish it at some point?

Books I started: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

I loooove this so far! Kvothe is back and being very Kvothe-ish by constantly getting into trouble at the University and never having enough money to pay his tuition. There are so many mysteries in this series that I can’t wait to uncover, but at the same time I want to savor it for as long as possible since no one knows when book 3 will come out. This will definitely be my longest read of 2016 (unless I decide to tackle War and Peace this year, which I doubt, but you never know!) and I was able to read 400 pages during the challenge.

Now that the challenge is over, I’m anxious for more reading challenges and readathons–I’ve found they’re such a great way to get myself to relax and spend time reading. Does anyone know of any fun, timed reading challenges similar to 24 in 48, Dewey’s, and Bout of Books? Would love some suggestions!

Bout of Books Wrap-Up

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I’m so sad to be done with Bout of Books 15. I’m relatively new to reading challenges, but I absolutely love the extra reading motivation and sense of community. I was also SHOCKED at how much I was able to read for this challenge–even though it was a really crazy week for me, I don’t know if I’ve ever read this many books in a week.

Books completed during Bout of Books: 5

Books I read but didn’t finish: 2

Book Riot Read Harder 2016 Challenge tasks completed: 4

This was especially cool because I didn’t intend to blend Bout of Books with kicking off my 2016 Read Harder Challenge, but they fit together really well and got me off to a great start.

✓ 7. Read a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel – Enclave

✓ 15. Read an historical fiction book set before 1900 – The Passion

✓ 17. Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the past three years – Saga, Volume 5

✓ 19. Read a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes – We Should All Be Feminists

Mini-Challenges entered: 3

Major Fail of the Challenge: I only read one book that is on my physical TBR shelf–the rest were library books, with one ebook. That was the total opposite of my goal for the challenge (and 2016 in general!). Now that the challenge is over, it’s time to hit that TBR shelf hard.

Favorite book I read during this challenge: The Passion by Jeanette Winterson. This was my first 5-star book of 2016, and I have a hard time imagining that I’ll read another book this year that can top it. Five-star reads are really rare for me–last year I only had 4 total. I’ll be posting my review soon, but the book’s been haunting me since I started it.

I’m really excited for the next Bout of Books, which goes down in May. Maybe I’ll try to beat my record from this round and read 6 books. Hope everyone is enjoying their reading!

 

 

I write about nontraditional beach reads for nontraditional readers